A network of political non-profits formed by judicial activist Leonard Leo moved at least $43 million to a new firm he is leading, raising questions about how his conservative legal movement is funded.
Leo’s own personal wealth appeared to have ballooned as his fundraising prowess accelerated since his efforts to cement the Supreme Court’s conservative majority helped to bring about its decision to overturn abortion rights. Most recently, Leo reaped a $1.6 billion windfall from a single donor in what is likely the biggest single political gift in U.S. history.
Fundraising reports for 2022 have yet to be filed but spending by Leo’s aligned nonprofits on his for-profit business in 2020 and 2021 demonstrates the extent to which his money-raising benefited his own bottom line. And it shows how campaign-style politics — and the generous paydays that go along with it — are now adjacent to the Supreme Court, the one U.S. institution that’s supposed to be immune to it.
A POLITICO investigation based on dozens of financial, property and public records dating from 2000 to 2021 found that Leo’s lifestyle took a lavish turn beginning in 2016, the year he was tapped as an unpaid adviser to incoming President Donald Trump on Supreme Court justices. It’s the same period during which he erected a for-profit ecosystem around his longtime nonprofit empire that is shielded from taxes. Leo was executive vice president of The Federalist Society at the time. [Continue reading…]